Languishing in their golden years

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WHEN it comes to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we should take a minute to revel in the quality of the cast.

What doesn’t give an instant warm and fuzzy feeling more than a star-studded ensemble including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie and Bill Nighy?

It’s an A-list dipped in gold – not just in years – but in talent, before we’ve even seen the opening scene.

With a sprightly Dev Patel bringing down the average age considerably, director John Madden must have sailed through filming with a grin permanently etched on his sun-kissed chops.

It’s a charming, delightful and amusing tale, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, and while it’s decidedly aimed at an older crowd, it’s just what you’d expect from a well-versed cast of veterans.

A group of English pensioners decide to take retirement to exotic levels by flitting off to a seemingly luxurious sanctuary for “the elderly and beautiful” in Jaipur, India.

There’s Evelyn (Dench), a newly widowed housewife whose home is being sold off to pay her husband’s debt.

Then there’s Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Wilton), who after being married for 39 years find they are unable to afford any kind of home except for retirement bungalows installed with panic buttons and hand rails “for the future”, since Douglas invested their life savings in their daughter’s internet business.

They are joined by Graham (Wilkinson), a high court judge, who has for many years, been retiring “any day now”; aging lothario, Norman (Pickup); inherently racist Muriel (Smith) and finally Madge (Imrie), who intends to make like Cyndi Lauper and “just have fun.”

But on arrival, the group discover that the hotel falls somewhat short of the romantic idyll promised in the brochure.

Luckily for the ever-optimistic young hotel manager Sonny (Patel), the retirees are won over by the sense of adventure, finding that life can begin again when you learn to let go.

It’s a film with lots of charm and thankfully dances closer to the edge of comedy than insult when tackling some of the residents’ clashes with Indian culture.

While it might not appeal to a younger audience, it does make you think about where you want to be in the not-to- distant future.